And 3 work from anywhere efficiency tips!
Whether or not you regularly work from home, have just started or are temporarily working from home due to health issues, (Yeah, I know, but nobody wants to think too hard about the C-word, right?) working from home has both its opportunities and its challenges!
On the one hand, being able to take advantage of sunny weather to have a cup of coffee on your patio or put the washing out is great. On the other hand, feeling the urge to deep clean your kitchen or succumb to the temptation of ‘just one episode’ of your latest Netflix obsession can be tough to ignore.
I’ve run my business from home (and coffee shops and co-working spaces) since 2016. Here’s some of my top tips to keep you productive and efficient. And, as a bonus, my top 3 tips for efficient workflows, no matter where you are.
3 top tips for efficient working
1. Do not start work immediately. I know, crazy, right? But if you start working straight away, without a plan or prioritising, how do you know that what you’re working on is the most important and most urgent bit of your work? However you choose to prioritise (and PLEASE shout out if you would like a blog post on different ways to prioritise because I love this topic!), block out your first 15 minutes of the day to do so. That could be before you get to the office/your desk/the kitchen table. It could be done the night before. But before you start anything and especially before you open your email program, make sure you understand the priorities of the work you have.
2. Break large projects into much smaller chunks and assign each chunk its own priority. Treating each chunk as a piece of work in its own right stops you feeling overwhelmed by large projects and ensures that you actually work on it. A lot of time people put off looking at big pieces of work until they ‘have time’. You’re unlikely to magically free up four hours to look at something. But you can probably sort out half an hour here and there to break the work down, assign priorities and plan when you are going to tackle each piece.
3. Switch off your email. Ok, yeah, if you’re homeworking people may need to get hold of you all the time, but you still need periods where you can focus on the task at hand. Let people know that there are chunks of time where you will be working on other things and will not be responsive to emails. I had a boss that checked emails first thing, just after lunch and the last hour before the end of the day. Not only was he very productive in answering emails, it cut down the amount of emails he received, and we were all happier because we knew when we would get an answer.
Those tips above are going to work for you regardless of if you are homeworking or in your regular office, but what about specific homeworking tips?
1. Have a designated working space. In an ideal world, this would be a separate room so you can leave out papers, pens, charts, etc. But not everyone has that luxury, so if you can free up some space anywhere, do that. Think of creative ways of using hallways, the corner of a dining room that is rarely used or some other places. Avoid using your bedroom if at all possible. If you train your brain to think about work in your bedroom, it will carry on doing that when you are trying to sleep!
2. Spend time on getting your workspace set up well. Pinboards, corkboards, wall planners, pots for pens, your printer cables. If you get these things sorted so that your workspace feels like your workspace rather than the corner of the lounge, it is easier to slip into your working mindset.
3. Plan for interaction. Whether it’s a routine Skype call, a walk to the local coffee shop to meet someone else, a fellow homeworker coming by for an hour, you’re going to need that interaction, regardless of how introverted you are. If you wouldn’t be required to be at your desk 100% of the day in the office, you don’t need to be physically at your desk 100% of the day when you’re at home.
4. Be flexible with your time. For me, one of the major bonuses of working from home and flexible working is that I can get to the gym in the middle of the day. It may mean I start work a little earlier or I work a little later to offset that time, but I can make the middle of the day, less busy fitness classes. I can even do my supermarket shopping when it is much quieter. However….
5. Set boundaries. If I do chores or fitness in the middle of the day, I know what time I’ve given myself off for that and make sure that I make that up at one end of the day. Similarly, I very, very rarely switch the tv on when I’m in work mode. I will occasionally if I am doing something that requires very little attention, like uploading new photos for my website that takes a long time. But usually, I don’t view the tv as something I can do when I’m working. However, I love music and use the Instrumental Study playlist on Spotify all the time. Other homeworking friends of mine use Brain FM. Some people like radio or audio books. I find having music on makes me less likely to want to succumb to the allure of Netflix!
6. Have a routine. Regardless of if you work over breakfast, or don’t start until you’re showered, dressed and breakfasted, work out a good routine and stick to it. The cues that you create will help you develop that working mindset. Some people need to get ready exactly as they are going out for work (down to packed lunch and snacks), others don’t need that. Experiment to see what works best for you.
7. Take outdoor breaks. Unless you smoke, most people don’t take an outdoor break at work. But at home you have the opportunity to do that. Even if it is just popping out before putting the kettle on, walking around the block or dodging the rain to your local shop for a treat, getting fresh air and a quick change of scene really helps.
8. Mark the end of your day. If you’re a certain type of person, one of the dangers of home working is that you just keep working. Set an alarm to tell you this is your finish time and move. Physically get up. Ideally, go outside for a walk as a way of shifting your mindset back into non-work mode. If you can’t do that, throw on some music, shift away from work. If you struggle with this, allow yourself 15 minutes to write down what you’ve achieved, what your priorities for the next day are and 3 goals that you would like to achieve. It can help draw a line under the day.
9. Check in with your line management. It’s easy to just respond to emails and work requests and think that’s it. If you don’t have a scheduled call, make one, so you can check in on the wider picture and keep reminding your line management that you’re there, committed and fully functioning!
10. Enjoy it! I love working from home, but it can be isolating. Find other home workers you can connect with (virtually or in reality). Unless you’re avoiding contact with others, open up your kitchen table for others to come over and work. A pot of coffee and a smile can make your home working feel much less isolating!
There you are, my top 10 homeworking tips with a bonus 3 efficiency tips. What are your top tips? I’d love to hear them, just pop them in the comments!